Great pitching, greater hitting, and solid defense have the Butler Aviators off to their best start in years, and thinking…they haven’t done anything yet!
Troy – Vandalia Butler coach Trent Dues has paid his dues. He’s been there a long time, won a lot of games, seen a lot of good talent.
Still, he’s never broken through in Division I baseball, through the likes of Moeller, Lakoka, Elder, and the gauntlet you must cross if you want to get to Columbus and win the gold trophy. He’s been good a lot, mind you, but never quite good enough.
But Monday afternoon at Market Street Field in Troy Dues rolled out his latest edition, a juggernaut with a 12-0 mark through the season’s first month that at the halfway point of the season passes the eye test.
They’re senior laden…experienced.
They have four hitters at the top and middle of their lineup all hovering around the .400 mark.
And once again, in the tradition of past best…the Aviators have pitching and 6’4″ senior righthander Mitch Gremling punctuated that fact with a 5-hit, 11-strikeout performance in taming the homestanding Troy Trojans, 7-0.
Gremling was dominant, a big presence on the mound, twice striking out the side and limiting Troy to just two hits through the first five innings. A recruit to go to Wright State next year, his competitiveness eats up catchers as well as opposing hitters. On not the most efficient of days, he walked three, hit a batter, and peppered battery mate Noah Ballard repeatedly with breaking balls in the dirt.
“When I’m out there on the mound it’s like a whole ‘nuther world,” he said following his shutout. “It’s just me and the catcher.”
11 strikeouts, five hits and a shutout are a pretty big day, but Gremling shrugged it all off. “I’m just excited that we won,” he added.
It moved them to 13-0, the most talked about on the I-75 corridor, if not the best, but it doesn’t get Trent Dues all milky with anticipation or accolades for his unblemished record. The two teams meet again tomorrow in Vandalia at 5 pm.
“It’s a good group,” said Dues. “We’ve got a lot of guys returning and they’ve worked hard to get here. We’re playing well and we’ve got different guys stepping up every night.”
And a lot of ’em stepped up on Monday.
After seeing Troy lefthander Jared Bair once through the lineup, they teed off in the fifth scoring five times while benefiting from a couple of Troy mistakes. The big blow…a two-run double by first baseman Chandler Craine that provided more than enough margin for Gremling.
“We’ve gotten good pitching and we play good defense,” added Dues. “And that’s a good combination. We’ve got some good hitting at key spots and that helps. And, we’ve got some guys who are two and three-year players. But the key thing is that these guys all work hard. During off-season we rarely had guys miss.”
But the pitching! You never have enough, and even when you do you still don’t take it for granted.
“Mitch Gremling is kind of loose guy with three good pitches, a mid-80s guy, and if you can be around the plate that makes you a pretty effective high school pitcher. He holds runners well and when we play defense like we’ve played so far it makes things a lot easier.”
They made it look easy on Monday, but Troy, now 8-5, did not have it so easy, thanks to Gremling. Bair last through the fourth, threw a ton of pitches with what seemed one 3-2 count after another, and turned the ball over to reliever Nick Matney in the fifth, who surrendered two runs on four hits over the last three innings.
But easy is relative, at least to wise old heads like Trent Dues.
“We play a good schedule, our conference, of course,” he said, and then added, “…and as many of the GCL teams as we can play in non-conference. We want to be challenged every night.”
Which goes a ways in telling you that Dues has great expectations for this group, a team he’s nurtured, been patient to see grow up…and he lives with the shortstop. Son Damon is one of the best in the area.
So how good is 13-0?
“We really haven’t done anything yet,” says Dues.
But they looked darned good on Monday!